Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Gellin' Point

Okay, Habs fans, here we are. The quarter pole. The point we've all been waiting for before passing judgement on the latest bunch of recruits wearing our beloved CH; the moment when we're supposed to have a clue what kind of season these guys can deliver. It'll take twenty games, we said, for the team to gel after the summer's gutting. So, what do you think?

I admit that's a rhetorical question, for no true bleu (blanc et rouge) fan can be happy with the absolute suckage we're seeing on the ice right now. The team's record is 9-11, which is a call for emergency help if I've ever heard one. Right at the moment, we're looking at a decimated defence corps struggling to move the puck effectively. Of all the stats the NHL keeps, Habs are in the top five in only one: giveaways. Number one in the league is Roman Hamrlik. Scott Gomez is number two. Jaroslav Spacek is number four and Hal Gill has dropped to sixth place because he's only had a chance to give the puck away in fourteen games rather than the twenty the rest of them have had. Those stats might possibly be affected by whoever counts giveaways in the Bell Centre. Perhaps that person's perception of what constitutes a giveaway is somewhat more scrupulous than those of the giveaway-counters in other rinks. Maybe, but I don't think so, since takeaways (presumably giveaways by the other team) would also be high. The Habs have 190 giveaways and only 90 takeaways (good for ninth in the league.) We see it ourselves on the ice every game. The defence struggles under pressure and throws the puck out of trouble in any way possible...over the glass, the length of the ice or onto an opponent's stick. We might make some allowances for this, because of all the injuries on D. But if the team's defensive core is so crippled by the loss of the as-yet unproven Ryan O'Byrne and 6/7 man Hal Gill, it's much more handicapped than we think. Markov, of course, can never be replaced. But attempting to do so by signing Bergeron and claiming Leach isn't solving the problem.

The forwards are another horror story. Cammalleri makes the top ten in one NHL category: shots on goal, coming in in eighth place. It's no surprise he's leading the team in points. You can't score if you don't shoot, which is proven among the league leaders. The top point scorers in the NHL have similar shooting percentages to Cammalleri's, but they just take more shots. The Canadiens, on the other hand, don't shoot the puck. Alexander Ovechkin is the league leader, with 86 shots in 14 games, or an average of 6.1 shots per game. Compare that with Andrei Kostitsyn, supposedly one of the Habs' snipers, who has 38 shots in 20 games for an average of 1.9 shots per game. To make it worse, Ovechkin has a 16.3% shooting average, while Kostitsyn's is 2.6%. In other words, the only way he's going to put up points is to shoot much, much more often. Tomas Plekanec is doing fine points-wise, but could be doing better if he'd shoot more. He's only taking 2.4 shots a game. So is Scott Gomez. That's still better than Guillaume Latendresse's 1.25, Matt D'Agostini's 1.45 and Maxim Lapierre's 1.65. When the secondary scorers you're relying on to put points on the board don't shoot the puck, there's not going to be a lot of scoring happening. Then again, it's hard to shoot the puck when you're constantly giving it away.

The goalies struggled for many of the twenty games so far, no surprise considering the hard-pressed D. They, at least, seem to have found some consistency. Both of them have turned in some very strong performances in the last five games. Unfortunately, they've found their grooves just when the slow trickle of Habs goalscoring has dried up like a puddle in the Sahara.

The coaches are unimpressive, having failed either to get the team playing a discernable system or to adjust the system to the players' weaknesses.

So, at the quarter point of the season, we have to conclude this is really a pretty bad team. Andrei Markov's return will help the D, and it will lend the forwards a hand in moving the puck up ice better. But Markov won't be returning until another two quarters of the season have passed. At that point, there's only so much one man can do. And we still haven't seen the Canadiens play New Jersey, Philly, Detroit or most of the really strong teams in the league.

Last season, we were frustrated because the Habs so often declined to show up for games against weak opponents and ended up blowing points because of it. Then, they'd turn around and beat a good team like San Jose the next night, just to prove they could elevate their game when they tried. This year, the team tries its best most nights and still loses. When it doesn't show up at all, we get a butt-kicking like the one in Nashville last night.

I don't like what I'm seeing with this team, mostly because it doesn't end here. The same core of players, with the possible subtractions of Tomas Plekanec, Paul Mara and Glen Metropolit will be around for the foreseeable future. If that's not enough to put the fear of God in you as a Habs fan, you're a better fan than I am. Honestly? The thing I'm most dreading (aside from Boston landing the first-overall pick...thanks Burkie, you moron) is that Markov's return will give the team a late-season push up to ninth place. There'll be no playoffs, no players will be either traded or re-signed during the stretch drive and the draft pick will be another mid-tier third liner. I hope the Habs manage to pull it together somehow in the next twenty games, but if they don't...if they're going to miss the playoffs anyway...I hope they miss big and finally land themselves a solid top-five pick that will make a real difference. Other than that, Gainey's going to have to 'fess up to some mistakes and fix them if the mess we see on the ice now is going to improve at all in the next five years. I see only one way to do that...and I'll say more about that later.

So, are we gellin' yet?


DB said...

When Martin was signed I thought he was a good choice. The Habs had trouble clearing their own zone, gave up too many shots, displayed poor discipline, had a weak forecheck, and had problems with player development. All areas that Martin had shown in Ottawa that he knew how to address.

I had one little nagging doubt about Martin because of his coaching record in Florida - had he adapted to the post-lockout era?

With the suckage that you've documented so well that nagging doubt is getting larger. The team is misfiring, it looks lost and hesitant. A number of players (AK46, Lats, Laps, Gomez) are underperforming. In fact the Habs remind me of two teams from last year - the Hartsburg coached Senators and the Therrien coached Penguins.

The nagging doubt is not yet large enough to call for the firing of Martin, but if the suckage continues for another 10 to 15 games then it likely will be.

If Martin is fired I would like to see what Boucher could do. He is inexperienced at the pro level, but so were Coulson and Blysma when they took over. Boucher has impressed in his short time in Hamilton. Carle raved about him and I've been impressed by his approach with Sergei. He told Sergei (I wish I could give a reference for where I read this) that he should model his game after Datsyuk. I thought this was a great approach. It allowed Boucher to point out the holes in Sergei's game while massaging his ego about his talent level.

Howard said...

Has JM lost the team? Assuming there is a team to lose! I don't think bag skating is going to make up for the deficiencies which we see on the ice, namely secondary scoring. A few weeks ago Martin lamented that AK46 was not shooting to which he retorted that he wasn't seeing enough ice time to shoot. It stands to reason that we can't shoot if we're constantly giving the puck away at a league leading rate. We need our D to move the puck out of zone and up the ice. I don't think the patchwork solution of MAB and Leach is going to make much difference. Maybe it's time to call up PK and Weber and give these offensive minded kids a chance. I think PK has the stuff to have an impact straight from junior a la Del Zotto, Johnson, Bogosian, Myers to name just a few. Time to stop playing games with SK and most of all if Martin can't get the best out of his players then bring in Guy Boucher.

pfhabs said...


-"Gainey's going to have to 'fess up to some mistakes and fix them if the mess we see on the ice now is going to improve at all in the next five years"

-are you kidding me !? first Gainey will fess up to nada but more importantly I do not want him to "fix" anything...hasn't he and Gauthier (aided by Gibson & Roberts; pro scouting staff) done enough...enough all fricking ready

-plan #1 got blown up
-plan #2 was to bring in more durable, experience and younger guys ? please give me Koivu and Komisarek over Gill and Gomez

-I"ll repeat myself from last July; didn't understand what Bob was doing (because the rationale was pure BS) and didn't like it much...the whole blogisphere shit all over me as reactionary and negative....well the fricking chickens have come home to roost and the return of Markov in another 3 months will solve nada other than remove them from a lottery pick

-apparently Geoff Molson will become the official owner between Nov 26-Dec 4 (the actual 100th anniversary). hoping that the hockey gods take pity on us, give Geoff some insight and he sends a great Captain but questionable GM in a cap world packing

-btw I will duly apologize if they turn it around but JT I do not see this happening...start the reconstruction now

saskhab said...

1. The last thing we need to do is call more promising kids up before they've proven much at the AHL level. Didn't we go through some of this already with Latendresse, Sergei Kostitsyn, Pacioretty, and even, some would say, Price?

2. We're in a rebuild, even if it's never been said publicly. This isn't hard to figure out. We're behind the 8 ball not because of the new guys brought in, but all the under 25 guys that were retained. The reason they're behind? The damage done before. Carbo and Lever were terrible at developing young players. That's why there are 6 new coaches along with the 7 new veteran players.

3. Losing Markov for 3/4 of the year is a blow that the coaching staff and management shouldn't have had to deal with, but it happened and it's screwed the season over. We have no special teams as a result, and no transition game. We lead the league in minor penalties taken and we're really bad at drawing penalties.

4. That 20 game mark was made also assuming that Markov was healthy. As in, the team would've been struggling out of the gate even WITH Markov. It's ridiculous to hold the team to the same standard without the guy who is obviously the team's best and most important player, the best Hab by far since Patrick Roy was dealt to the Avalanche.

5. Getting a top 3-5 pick would be a huge consolation for the year that has happened. It'd give us a lot more hope that with a fully realized Carey Price (and said top 5 pick), that we might be able to compete against the Pens, Caps, and Flyers long term (and whoever else emerges). Right now, I don't think that it's realistic to compete even with Price becoming a perennial All-Star (and not last year All-Star).

pfhabs said...


-if Carbo and Lever are at fault for bad player development who hired them ? they certainly didn't just show up and started coaching

-if the loss of Markov has such a debilitating effect and most in-tune fans knew this was going to be the result why didn't management know this ?

-who is responsible for a decent contingency plan ? not replace Markov's ability directly but allow the club to function to a high level without him ?

-who signed so many players and found himself over the cap and strapped by it in doing so, thereby not allowing to effectively replace Markov ?

-whose plan isn't working for a second time....ask any decent question you'd like about the current state of affairs and the answer is the same---the on ice product Chief Operating Officer--Bob Gainey

-it has been 6+ years of excuses and non-winning beyond the first round...the answer is as simple as finding a beer in Mosaic stadium. Bob thank you very much but time to say goodbye

J.T. said...

@pfhabs: You don't like Gainey. I get it. Can we change the tune now? It's starting to get a bit repetitive.

pfhabs said...


-as an individual I know him not and have no comment

-as a GM in a cap world your Gomez post says it all and is only the tip of the iceberg

-what's to like and why does he seem to avoid critical scrutiny while others are skewered ?